Thursday, June 29, 2006

Now Playing Centre Field for the New York Rangers!

It worked in Edmonton, so surely it will be a hit on Broadway!

The New York Times has a story in their Thursday edition that there are discussions underway to hold an outdoor hockey game at Yankee Stadium in either December or January of this coming season, matching up those two favourite puck playing sons of Gotham the Rangers and the Islanders.

If the plan goes ahead it will mark only third time that a hockey game has been played at a large outdoor venue, besides the wildly successful Oiler event of a few years ago when over 54,000 hockey fanatics braved a cold Alberta day to watch the Habs and Oilers at Commonwealth Staidum.

College hockey were the pioneers of the big stadia showcase, having once put state rivals Michigan and Michigan State to the ice, er field at Spartan stadium. An event that brought 74,554 fans to the stands and thousands of dollars to the pockets of the two schools. Imagine the possibilities at Yankee Stadium at NHL ticket prices, it could give both the Rangers and Islanders quite a few more dollars in their hot chocolate fund.

The full Times story is reprinted below.

June 29, 2006
N.H.L. Proposal Could Put a Game in Yankee Stadium

The National Hockey League may be ready to take its sport outdoors, with Yankee Stadium among several stadiums being considered to play host to a hockey game during the 2006-7 season.

Rick Cerrone, the Yankees' senior director of media relations, confirmed that the team had been approached by N.H.L. officials about the possibility of a game being held at the stadium. It is believed that the game, which was reported yesterday by Newsday, would match the Rangers and the Islanders in December or January. The 2006-7 N.H.L schedule will be released next month.

According to Frank Brown, the N.H.L. vice president for media relations, similar discussions were under way with officials from a number of outdoor stadiums.

A game at Yankee Stadium could prove beneficial to all parties.

An experiment with outdoor hockey in 2003 in Canada was a rousing success, drawing the largest crowd in N.H.L. history. Despite freezing temperatures, 57,167 fans turned out to watch the Edmonton Oilers face the Montreal Canadiens, the only outdoor game ever played in the N.H.L. It took place at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium, the home of the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos.

The N.H.L. borrowed from college hockey when hatching the idea to match the Canadiens and Oilers outdoors. An Oct. 6, 2001, game between Michigan State and Michigan held at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing had an attendance of 74,554, the largest crowd ever to see a hockey game.

With an N.H.L. game, the Yankees would also bring in revenue during a time of year when their stadium is empty. Since the Giants last played in Yankee Stadium in 1973, the stadium has been almost exclusively used for baseball. In 1976, Ken Norton and Muhammad Ali met in a fight at Yankee Stadium and in 1938 the old Yankee Stadium played host to a fight between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling of Germany. In more recent years, the stadium was the site for a 1990 Billy Joel concert and a 1992 U2 concert.

The rival Boston Red Sox have profited by holding concerts during the baseball season at Fenway Park, including appearances by Jimmy Buffett, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen. Red Sox management has also shown interest in opening the stadium for college hockey games.

New home, same problems

Todd Bertuzzi was probably looking forward to a new start with his new team in Florida, a break from the troubles he found himself in Vancouver over the last few years. But, if he was looking for a respite, it was a short lived one.

Word out of Vancouver Wednesday night, had it that Steve Moore's attorneys had filed a lawsuit back on March 6th accusing Bertuzzi and his wife Julie with fraud. The suit revolves around the sale of the Bertuzzi's home valued at 1.2 million dollars to wife Julie for 2 dollars. The documentation at the time stated that the transaction took place as a "transfer from husband and wife for natural love and affection." The timing of the sale is what has apparently triggered the lawsuit, as it took place only weeks after the Moore incident, which eventually resulted in a a guilty plea and a community service sentence for Bertuzzi, as well as the follow up suspension from the NHL .

Moore and his parents are asking the courts for punitive damages of 100,000 dollars. The Moore legal team is suggesting that the Bertuzzi's made the financial move so as to creditor proof Mr. Bertuzzi during the early days of the Moore trial.

The latest move comes to light as Bertuzzi has been making more media appearances, expressing his happiness in being moved to Florida. While those appearances will again dwindle as the summer moves forward and hockey resumes its lower than low profile in South Florida.

But headlines will still find their way to the Sports section in Florida, now instead of the Vancouver Province or Sun blaring out the latest twist in the Bertuzzi - Moore civil case, it will also find a few lines in Miami.

Hockey may be a low profile, but Bertuzzi is about to learn that his travails are much larger than just a game and the American media is just as, if not more fascinated with legal troubles. As Bertuzzi once famously said on a Vancouver radio show, "it is, what it is"

So it is and will be for the foreseeable future!

Rear Guard Roulette

Bryan McCabe may have made his mind up, but for the rest of the NHL’s defensive corps, July 1st can’t come soon enough. Saturday is the magic day for those NHLers awaiting free agency, with a bump of five million in cap room this year, there may be quite a few offer calls backing up on player agent phones and Personal messangers.

Canadian teams seem to be taking the brunt of the big name D men who may be making a move. Vancouver is wondering where they stand with Ed Jovanovski as rumours continue to swirl that he’s thinking of a return to Florida as part of his NHL future. The Senators could possibly take a double hit on Saturday as both Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden could have multiple offers to ponder, with the Edmonton Oilers thinking of bringing Redden back to Alberta while Chara has them chomping at the bit in New York City. This leaves John Muckler to head to work and earn his pay. It’s said that the two are waiting to see what the Sens do about the always controversial goal position before they make a final call, a situation that has John Muckler apparently pounding out the numbers on his phone trying to swing a deal somewhere for someone!

Of course in Edmonton, the Chris Pronger soap opera will play itself out, if the Oilers are lucky it will come to and end this weekend as the different dominoes fall and those looking to bulk up on the blue line are left out of the loop. The latest on the Pronger plan is that he’d prefer a USA destination but would consider Toronto or Vancouver, with McCabe signed his chances of wearing the Maple Leaf are reduced not to mention the prospect of picking up another disatisfied customer, but if the Jovanovski situation turns bad he just may end up in Vancouver.

While the Defensive players are getting all the ink at the moment, Goaltenders may be on the move by Saturday as well, there is a large group of back ups that won’t be content to be second banana for another year and probably make too much for that status anyways. Look for Dan Cloutier, Martin Gerber and J. S. Giguere, to name a few to be in new locales before too long. All dependant on the cap room and their expectations for the long term.

While the draft day, Stanley Cup playoffs and NHL Awards show all are player dominated. July 1st will be the day of the number crunchers, one part GM one part CFO; together they’ll decide who goes where and for how much. One thing is certain though; some teams are going to be looking quite a bit different by the time the smoke clears from the Canada Day fireworks on July 1st!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Save a little, spend a little in the NHL

There's a bit more to spend for next season as the NHL's Cap rises by five million dollars. Tuesday the league office and the NHLPA announced that the team by team cap for 2006-07 will be 44 million dollars.

Teams will have to spend at least 28 million dollars on salaries in the coming season, with the midpoint expected to be 36 million.

It's good news for the players, who not only see their potential salaries increasing, but they also will see a decrease in the escrow account that was introduced at the end of the NHL lockout last year.

Hall of Fame Candidates to be announced Wednesday

The Hockey Hall of Fame will reveal this years potential nominees on Wednesday, as potentially four candidates will find themselves placed in the Holy Grail of Canadian Hockey.

The no brainer, automatic spot will no doubt go to Patrick Roy the former Habs and Avalanche player and current Memorial Cup winning head coach of Quebec city can reserve his tuxedo for the induction ceremony takes place on November 13th.

Pavel Bure, Doug Gilmour, Adam Graves, Tom Barrasso, Mike Richter and Phil Housley also are up for consideration for the first time. Players must be retired for at least three years. One wild card possibility is Dino Ciccarelli who is being lobbied for pretty effectively by the media as we head to annoucnement day.

Ciccarrelli has a bit more baggage than most of the potential Hall of Famers, but should be given the nod according to this report from Canadian Press. His story is an interesting one and gives you cause for thought over how they select their nominees from year to year. What remains to be seen is if the increased media exposure to his cause will work for or against Ciccarelli this year.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Nonis takes charge and charts the new course

The Dave Nonis era has been anything but quiet in the last week, bringing to an end an unusual lull in the noise that usually comes out of the Canucks camp in a city that lives and dies with everything Canuck. The Vancouver GM has begun to put his stamp on the team, that two years ago seemed a lock for a Stanley Cup and now is being re-tooled and re-built to make another run for the Cup.

There was a too long amount of time between the firing of Marc Crawford and the hiring of his replacement, while Canuck fans waited for a decision the speculation ran rampant, any number of out of work coaches were supposed to be considered for the task at hand, rumours even made the rounds of a return of Pat Quinn to the Canuck family. Which would have made for a nice story as Quinn was perhaps one of the most beloved coaches in Vancouver history, but also carried the baggage of having been the GM and President here before.

To think that Nonis would launch his plan for a Canuck rebirth with as huge a presence as Quinn in attendance just seemed to be a silly prospect. If this was to be Nonis’ team, a clean break from the past was needed, that would mean no return for the big Irishman to the west coast this time around.

After he finally got around to announcing that Alain Vigneault had been named head coach, it’s been one announcement after another at GM Place, with the expectation that there may be a few more before they head to training camp in September.

Things got rolling late last week when Vigneault announced that he would be looking for new assistants for the upcoming season, as Jack McIlhargey and Mike Johnson were let go, a sign that the old gang was moving along, a new direction was being charted.

Then the bomb dropped, Nonis and Mike Keenan worked out a deal that sent Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld off to the Florida sunshine, heading to Vancouver (providing they can hammer out a contract) will be Roberto Luongo considered by many to be one of the top three or four goaltenders in the league and the marquee goaltender that Canuck fans always seem to demand but always find go wanting. Expectations will be high once again in Vancouver as they anxiously await the latest saviour for the nets.

The Bertuzzi deal finally exorcises almost all the ghosts from GM Place, only a few more things need to be cleared up before Vigneault has a free hand to sculpt the on ice project in a direction that Nonis wants it to go.

Dan Cloutier most certainly will be moving along, his salary far too high for back up status and his value in a trade still quite high for a team looking for a transition goaltender (hello there Toronto, Ottawa, goaltender deals in aisle five). Also with Bertuzzi now gone, more than a few people are speculating on the future of Markus Naslund who at the moment has a no trade clause in his contract. As last season wound down it seemed as though Naslund’s interest was waning as well, worn down and frustrated it seemed as though the joy of the game was being drained from his body, with his best friend now gone one wonders what his thoughts may be. He has always suggested that one day he would be finishing out his career back home in Sweden, you wonder if perhaps that day is a lot closer now than it was at the end of April.

There are other hurdles for Nonis to contemplate as he works on the master plan, Jovanovski is on the cusp of free agency and the Sedins and Anson Carter are also in the market for new deals. How he handles all of those issues will set the standard for what will come in September.

He has however announced that he’s not afraid to make the changes that need to be made to make his team better. In an era of stand pat GM’s and teams afraid to rattle a few cages, Nonis has shown that he’s more than ready to shake the trees a bit get his team back on track.

More importantly he's firmly taken charge and thus responsibility for the teams success or failure, something that Canuck fans will find admirable and welcome!

All Hail Sutter!

Their singing the praises of their GM in Calgary, excited at the prospect of Alex Tanguay lighting up the rink with goals for the Flames this upcoming season.

The Flames picked up the Colorado sniper on Saturday with a trade during the opening minutes of the 2006 Draft proceedings, Darryl Sutter sent the out of favourJordan Leopold, off to the Mile High City with a couple of second round picks. The trade came about with Colorado trying to determine how best to spend it's cap money, with high profile contracts coming due shortly.

Tanguay found his name on the short list for movement out of town and the Flames were more than happy to snap him up and add some scoring punch to a team that had problems putting the puck in the net last season.

While it wasn't a blockbuster trade like that of divisional rival Vancouver pulled off on Friday night, it still is a move that should pay dividends at playoff time next season, something that Flames fans will be looking forward to quite a bit.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

American Roulette

It was the Fourth of July on the 24th of June, as NHL teams picked 10 Americans in the available thirty spots of the first round of the NHL amateur draft. And if you’re an American hockey player it would seem that playing or growing up in the mid-west is your ticket to the NHL.

It made for a record day for American citizens chosen by the NHL since the amateur draft became the major project that it has become. Leading the pack was the first round choice of the St. Louis Blues, Erik Johnson who may forsake College hockey to stand guard on the Blues blue line.

Speaking of standing on guard, Canada held its own on draft day as 11 Canadians were selected in the first round, the vast majority coming out of the nation’s Junior A leagues. The most prominent of those chosen, was Jordan Staal, brother of Eric and member of Canada’s latest hockey factory family. Staal was chosen by the Pittsburgh Penguins as the second pick overall and becomes the third member of the Staal family to be drafted by an NHL team, he joins brother Eric from Carolina and Marc who was chosen by the New York Rangers in 2005.

The remainder of the first round picks hailed from Austria, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic and Russia.

The St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals, Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes each had two first round picks to work with, either by way of poor performance last season or via a trade with more successful squads, they managed to put themselves in the position to improve their squads through the age old method of building through the draft.

The first round was broadcast live across Canada on TSN and in the USA on the OLN
Network. The Vancouver audience added instant feedback to the trades and selections, either showing their approval with applause or registering dis-belief with either silence or a very audible groan. They weren’t quite sure what to make of Canucks’ GM Dave Nonis’ decision to select Austrian Michael Grabner, who played for Spokane this past season. Of course Canuck fans were still in shock trying to digest the moves from Friday which saw Todd Bertuzzi leave town to make way for the arrival of Roberto Luongo.

The most interesting response on the day though went to the introduction of Brian Burke, the former GM of Vancouver who now runs the show in Anaheim. Burke’s departure from Vancouver was not a well received event among the locals and they took advantage of the first opportunity available to welcome him back to the city that he owned at one time. They stood and gave him a long and sustained amount of applause before he made the first pick for the Ducks. It may very well be the last time that Burke will receive a warm welcome at GM Place, depending on the success of his Ducks in the years to come. With his 19th pick Burke selected a typical Brian Burke kind of player, Mark Mitera, a stay at home defenseman from the University of Michigan.

Just one of ten Americans to lay claim to a first round pick for 2006, a possible sign that the European invasion may have slowed down a bit from previous years and no doubt making Don Cherry one happy hockey fan by late Saturday night.

The St. Louis Blue select from the US National Team Program Erik Johnson

The St. Louis Blues used their first pick in the 2006 Amateur draft to bolster their defensive corps, as they picked up Erik Johnson from Bloomington, Minnesota.

Just out of high school, he already has Blues fans anxious for a debut in the Blue note sweater, he was the first defenseman to go fist over all since 1996. He has spent the last two years in the US National hockey program at Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Learn more about the First pick of the 2006 pick with this article from Hockey's Future..

Friday, June 23, 2006

Pronger to pack his bags?

A story recounted on a Vancouver radio station has added more fuel to the fire of a rumour out of Edmonton today, that Oiler defenceman Chris Pronger has asked to be traded out of the Alberta capital. Only four short days after the Oilers watched Carolina collect the Stanley Cup, the news may be like a kick to a guy when he’s feeling a little down.

Pronger was one of the solid anchors to a resilient Oilers team that never seemed to want to say die. With his apparent trade request it will call into question once again the ability of cities like Edmonton to acquire and then keep high profile players in Oiler Bronze and Blue.

The underlying story behind the Pronger story seems to be a personal situation with his family, which has brought him to the point of having his agent ask Oiler GM Kevin Lowe.

Pronger’s agent Pat Morris (a busy guy friday handling both the Pronger and Todd Bertuzzi stories!) was on CKNW’s sport talk in the 10-10:30 block (listen in at the audio vault) and explained that both he and Progner were hopeful that Lowe would be receptive to the request and trade the blue chip blue liner in short order.

It does give Lowe some cards to play at Saturday’s draft, but many Oiler fans will be feeling deflated this weekend. Their heroes fought valiantly to the bitter end of the playoff drive and now that the ride has come to an end, they not only want to get off the road but get out of town.

The talk at end of game seven was how much the Oilers had to look forward to in the future with a solid, close knit unit of players that seemed to find strength from their fans and wearing that Oiler uniform. Now the talk will be about whether they should force someone that apparently doesn’t want to stay remain in the line up. On the other side of that coin though, an asset like Pronger could bring some quality playes into Edmonton to bolster the line up.

It’s been a roller coaster of a year for the Oilers and their fans; once again they find themselves rushing on the down side of that coaster. Hang on Oiler fans, there are going to be a few more turns before you get to training camp in September.

Carolina makes headlines on eve of draft

Carolina is not going to rest on the accolades of the hockey world for their Stanley Cup victory. On the eve of the 2006 draft in Vancouver, the Hurricanes solidified a team leader’s position and started the rumour mill buzzing about a potential family reunion.

General Manager Jim Rutherford signed his captain Rod Brind’Amour to a long term deal keeping the heart and soul of the Canes Carolina bound for five years at a cost of 18 million dollars. Rutherford called Brind’Amour a dedicated and determined leader and an ambassador for the Hurricanes in the triangle area. At 35 years of age, the deal will most likely mean that Brind’Amour plays out the rest of his career as a Hurricane.

While he’s there he’ll possibly be watching the building of a family dynasty in Raleigh, rumours are making the rounds in Vancouver on the day before the draft that Rutherford will be trading up on Saturday, in order to acquire the services of Jordan Staal, brother to the Canes rising star Eric.

Jordan who played for Peterborough in the OHL this past season, is expected to go fairly high in the NHL draft on Saturday, presently listed as a number two pick by the Central Scouting Bureau, which would make for an interesting move for Carolina to get that pick.

All through the playoffs the Hurricane players liked to refer to the atmosphere around the team as that of a family, should they pick up the younger Staal in the draft Saturday it will be more than an atmosphere at training camp, it will be a family reunion.

Bertuzzi Florida bound in Blockbuster trade

Many said that Todd Bertuzzi wouldn’t return to his former self on the ice until he was clear of the Western Division, Friday night put Bertuzzi one skate closer to proving that theory right or wrong.

On the night before the 2006 Amateur draft, the Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers finished the details on a blockbuster trade that will see Bertuzzi trade uniforms with Roberto Luongo, who now becomes the latest hope for the Canuck’s in goal.

It marks the first big move by new GM Dave Nonis and perhaps signals that changes are in store for the underperforming Canucks. They were a team that many had pegged as potential Stanley Cup champions, but didn’t even make the playoffs in 2005-06.

The power forward who had an inconsistent season for the Canucks will move on to his third NHL team joining Mike Keenan’s Panther circus in Miami. Rejoining the guy that brought him out to Vancouver in the first place, Bertuzzi joined the Canucks during the rule of Keenan in Vancouver, which resulted in all sorts of turmoil. Keenan is a big believer of Bertuzzi, so this may very well be the move that rejuvenates his struggling career.

Also packing up the sun screen for a trip to Florida were Alex Auld and Bryan Allen who both were sent to the Panthers as part of the deal. The Canucks picked up Lukas Krajicek and a sixth round pick in Saturday’s draft.

It brings an end to the Todd Bertuzzi era in Vancouver, at one time perhaps one of the most popular of Canucks, his last season found him the frequent target of the always intense Vancouver media. They of course has been having a field day with the Bertuzzi story since it first broke in Vancouver Friday evening, the Dan Russell show (listen to the program on the audio vault from 9- 12 midnight) spent almost the entire program discussing and dissecting the recently completed deal. Bertuzzi played under the shadow of the Steve Moore incident of a few years ago, he was constantly under the microscope in Vancouver and will more than likely welcome the relative anonymity of hockey life in South Florida.

Luongo’s arrival in Vancouver will send even more dominoes falling one imagines, with Auld already moved, the question remains what will happen to Dan Cloutier. Last year’s starting goaltender until injury forced him to the sidelines, but you have to wonder if he will wish to be a back up and if the Canucks want to pay that much money for a backup with Cloutier’s salary of 2.5 million dollars for next year.

The impression in Vancouver at the end of the season was that changes had to be made, the Canucks began that process with the firing of Marc Crawford and the eventual hiring of Alain Vigneault. Moving Bertuzzi is the first major sign that it won’t be business as usual at GM Place. Now questions will shift to captain Markus Naslund a close personal friend of Bertuzzi’s, will he ask to be traded with his linemate now gone to Florida.

Will all these moves free up some salary cap money for Nonis to settle outstanding contract situations with other prominent Canucks up for negotiation at the moment. It certainly sends a message that the past is now the past and it's a new era in Canucks' hockey again.

It will be quite interesting to see how many of those that wore a Canuck’s uniform on the last day of the season, will be pulling that same uniform on at training camp. On the eve of the 2006 draft, the Canucks have so far made the most noise off the ice, Canuck fans are hoping that it all translates into a little noise on the ice in September and preferably late into June 2007.

Mighty No More

The Anaheim Ducks have eliminated the adjective in their official name, dropping the Mighty from any further reference to the Southern California hockey team. In addition to the change of name, the Ducks have also changed colours and logo as they eliminated all traces of the Disney corporations 13 years with the hockey team.

When the team was sold by Disney last year, there was talk that the Mighty would soon be a thing of the past as the new owners Henry and Susan Samueli strived to put their stamp on the franchise. With Brian Burke brought on to oversee the new look Ducks, the image is that of a more phsyical and less cartoonish looking logo and colour scheme.

The Ducks will now be dressed in gold and black, with accents of orange and white. More fearsome colours than their previous purple and teal combination, now to see if the team will reflect its new, more powerful colour scheme!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Future is almost now!

The NHL Draft is just over a day away now, as the thirty NHL teams will convene at GM Place in Vancouver Saturday morning to map out their near and long term plans.

Draft Day is one of those made for TV type of events as both TSN and Sportsnet pull out all their technological stops to bring the story of each NHL team’s deliberations and eventual pick.

Some picks are no brainers as the obvious talent available just dictates a selection, and then there are the other picks that question whether a GM has any brains to begin with. The Ottawa Senators used to own that franchise for their first few years of their existence. And for a while there it was the domain of the New York Islanders. But don’t get to cocky about your favourite team any GM can end up in the brainless category pretty quick should they make successive poor choices in consecutive draft years.

Here to help you cram for Saturday’s exam are some links to both the TSN and Sportsnet sites as they load you up with facts and figures to help you keep track of who the players are on draft day.

Bob McKenzie’s Top Thirty prospects
Final CSB Rankings
Final ISS Rankings
ISS Falling and Rising players
TSN at the Combine
TSN’s Mock Draft
Players to watch in 2007
Players to watch in 2008 and 2009
Team needs Anaheim to Minnesota
Team needs Montreal to Washington
Number One picks and pans

Sportsnet Primer
Sportsnet’s Top Thirty
Possible Sleeper picks
North American Skill rankings skaters
European Skill rankings skaters

North American Skill rankings goaltenders
Sportsnet’s Team needs
Sportsnet on the phones

CBC Sports Draft Page

Sounds like a pretty good starting six!

The NHL announced it's all rookie team for 2005-06 on Thursday and while on paper it may say that they are rookies, the six named played more like long time veterans during the season.

New York Rangers Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was selected as the all rookie goaltender for his stellar work with the Broadway boys this past season.

The back end was anchored by a couple of solid studs, Dion Phaneuf of the Caglary Flames who became legendary this season for his crushing bodychecks and creative play in the Calgary end all year long.

The Ottawa Senators Andrej Meszaros also got the nod for the back end, Meszaros who made the step up from the WHL's Vancouver Giants to the big leagues with hardly a missed step, so reliable was he this year that when the Sens ran into injury trouble during the playoffs they had no concerns what so ever about throwing him into the heat of battle.

The front line of the rookies has one thing in common for sure, scoring goals is not something that would be a problem. Washington's Alexander Ovechkin got the nod, as did Sid the Kid, Sidney Crosby from Pittsburgh, the two waged a terrific battle all year long for first year supremacy in the NHL. Joining them on the forward line is Brad Boyes of the Boston Bruins who surprised many this season with his poise on a not particularly good Bruins hockey team.

Point totals for the three show that if together they would walk over any competition, Ovechkin tallied 106 points on the year, Crosby 102 and Boyes 69 points. Giving them a combined points total of 277 points.

Which would no doubt be good for a few W's in the won-loss column over the course of season.

And the winners were…….

The NHL handed out its year end awards on Thursday night, in a gala presentation from Vancouver. With tuxedos and black ties, limos and camera flashes the NHL season came to a glamorous conclusion.

From crowd lined red carpets to rock stars performing, the 2006 NHL Awards were broadcast from coast to coast to coast. Ron McLean who was decked out in a suit that had to come from the Don Cherry collection, served as our genial host, the broadcast was one part polished awards presentation and one part hokey small town Little theatre project.

Some things worked, while others didn’t. McLean’s jokes sometimes seemed to miss their target, though to my credit I did get the Jose Theodore reference. But I’m not sure that a lot of the folks in the hall did. He had better luck with other material, though his interrogation of the young Calgary Flames fan seemed to go on just a wee bit too long.

They rewarded excellence and celebrated the roots of hockey all in one broadcast. Besides handing out numerous trophies and provided hockey’s royalty as presenters, the night also awarded Nelson, BC the title of home for CBC’s always popular Hockey Day in Canada location on January 13, 2007. A popular choice considering the broadcast was coming out of Vancouver!

The work was done in the hour provided, both Tom Cochrane and 54-40 got to rock the house and the hardware was delivered in a timely fashion. The festivities bring to a conclusion a very successful 2005-06 NHL Season.

For the record, the winners of the 2006 NHL Awards were:

HART TROPHY—Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks

ART ROSS TROPHY—Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks

MAURICE RICHARD TROPHY—Jonathon Cheechoo, San Jose Sharks

LESTER B. PEARSON TROPHY—Jaromir Jagr, New York Rangers

CALDER TROPHY—Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

NORRIS TROPHY—Niklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings

SELKE TROPHY—Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Hurricanes

LADY BYNG TROPHY—Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings

VEZINA TROPHY—MiIkka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames

WILLIAM JENNINGS TROPHY-Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames

MASTERTON TROPHY—Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks

KING CLANCY TROPHY—Olaf Kolzig, Washington Capitals

ADAMS TROPHY—Lindy Ruff, Buffalo Sabres

CONN SMYTHE TROPHY--Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Mr. Coyne writes a thesis!

The front page of Canada's National Post featured an epic presentation for Canada's one and only real love, that of the good ole hockey game!

As Andrew Coyne writes, there's a casual interest in the likes of baseball, basketball and football be it Canadian (which can stir the nations emotions in November), American or that roundball version playing out in Germany right now.

But it's hockey that is our passion, it's hockey that rules our world.

Here below is Mr. Coyne's thesis, make your notes there may be a quiz later on in the summer!

Why hockey rules
... And other sports suck

Andrew Coyne
National Post
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
CREDIT: CanWest News Service

The Stanley Cup

With the just-completed hockey playoffs coinciding this year with the World Cup of soccer, as well as the overlapping basketball and baseball seasons -- also Canadian football, the U.S. Open of golf and, later this week, Wimbledon -- we are afforded a rare, eclipse-like opportunity to compare the major spectator sports at close range. Compare, and declare: There is one game that stands out as objectively, scientifically, mathematically superior to the rest. I am of course talking about "the best game you can name," le sport des glorieux, the gentlemanly sport of hockey. Let's break it down by category.

The game. There is more action in five minutes of hockey than in your average 90-minute game of soccer, whose fans live for the moment when, by some mischance, the ball strays within 50 yards of the net. Basketball suffers from the opposite affliction: As the comedian David Brenner argues, they should start both teams at 100 and make the games two minutes long, since that's what every basketball game comes down to. Only hockey combines frequency of scoring chances with difficulty of actually scoring: Fans, especially at playoff time, are kept in a state of near-permanent hysteria, the prospect of a game-altering goal ever present.

Hockey is fluid, where baseball and football are static. It has been calculated that a 60-minute football game, though it takes nearly three hours to complete, adds up to no more than about 10 minutes of actual playing time. The rest is huddles, signal-calling, etc. Baseball players spend half of every game sitting around on the bench, chewing tobacco. The rest is spent standing around in the field, chewing tobacco. But oh, the geometry.

"The beautiful game?" I'll tell you what's beautiful: a perfectly timed hip check at mid-ice, sending the other player cartwheeling onto his head. It's ice dancing, only with more bruises and fewer sequins.

The championship. There is no greater test of endurance in sports than the Stanley Cup playoffs -- four consecutive best-of-seven series, as many as 28 games, each one an all-out war. To be crowned NFL champion, you have to win at most four games, total: about 20 minutes work for the average team member, offensive or defensive, less for those assigned to the risible "specialty teams."

Baseball players go through a similar process to reach the top, but, well, it's baseball -- how hard can it be? Basketball? I don't see any playoff beards on those pampered egomaniacs. The only thing I can think of that comes close is the Tour de France -- if there were hip checks.

There's also the matter of the cup itself.

The Stanley Cup, I have observed, is the object of some considerable fascination, even reverence, among Americans. You can see why: It's the oldest of the major sports trophies, and the classiest. It's not the Burger King Stanley Cup, after all. You're looking for a trophy for your major-league sporting event? Ask yourself these questions. Can you remember its name? (I don't even know what they give the NBA winners.) Can you drink champagne out of it? Does it have engraved upon it the names of every team and every player to ever win it?

The culture. One of the oddities of soccer is how light the penalties are. You trip a guy as he's about to kick the ball, and ... he gets to kick it again. If it's a particularly flagrant foul, the referee might show you a yellow card. You trip a guy in hockey, and you lose 20% of your skating manpower for two minutes or more.

But then it hit me: It's a matter of incentives. Soccer has a serious problem as it is with players taking dives in hopes of being awarded a free kick. Imagine the operas of agony they would perform if the penalties were more severe.

Diving is not unknown in hockey, and may be getting worse, but it's still frowned upon. It's not -- yet -- part of the culture of the game, the way it is in soccer. There's still an honest, workaday quality to hockey, even as played by millionaires. Of course, what I really mean is: It's Canadian. Everyone's moaning about American teams winning the Stanley Cup, Americans taking over our game. I prefer to think of it as an example of reverse cultural colonialism, a little piece of Canadian culture that has conquered the hearts of millions of Americans.

Mind you, there is one area where hockey falls short: colourful nicknames. There is no hockey equivalent to baseball's "Oil Can" Boyd or "Catfish" Hunter. Hockey nicknames are formed in one of two ways: by dropping the last syllable of the player's name, or by adding -er or -ie (sometimes by a combination of the two).

There's a simple reason for this: exhaustion. It's all a hockey player can do to gasp out "go Wayner" or "attaboy, Mess" between shifts. Baseball players, on the other hand, have all the time in the world.

© National Post 2006

One more year for Burnaby Joe!

Colorado once again learned about leadership from Joe Sakic on Tuesday, the Avalanche captain said that he only wanted a one year deal with the Avs (value of 5.75 million) so the team would still have some room under the salary cap structure.

The 37 year old pride and joy of Burnaby BC, signed on the dotted line for his seventeenth season in Avalanche colours and despite his later years, he still was the leading scorer on the Avalanche with 87 points and 30 goals.

But it's the intangibles that make Sakic no doubt the most valuable player ever to play for the Avalanche, his quiet leadership and understanding of the game make him the linchpin of a very successful franchise.

A franchise that will benefit from his work ethic for one more year at least!

Stanley's Hangover

Some are celebrating, some are co-miserating, but after an exciting seven game series that left it all on the ice, there are still some stories to tell.

Cup Celebrations Underway
Where's Stanley?
Candy goes to Canes
Carolina powers way to title
Canes were able
Cup coming home
Adams numb after big win
Wesley's Cup runneth over
When Rod speaks
Cole short on playing, long on thrills
Hard - But Easy
Wesley's wait was worth it
Living his dream
Raleigh Rallies
Sweet sippin'
Canadian players eager to bring Stanley Home
Back to Back Cups
Rookie reaches pinnacle
Series bigger than Ladd's KO of Roloson
Hurricane Season

Fans thank Oilers
A Bitter ending
Cup dream dies for Oilers
Another year gone
Mac T holds head up
Stepped Up
No joy in cheers for Roli
Pisani still a hero
What about Mike
Hockey's Near Miracle ending

Canucks hoping Vigneault leads them to the Promised Land

Finally, the Vancouver Canucks have named their next head coach; the bench boss that they feel will take their team to where no other Canuck coach has gone before, a victory lap with the Stanley Cup.

Alain Vigneault was named as the 16th coach in Canucks history Tuesday, his task, to turn an under achieving squad into a team ready to not only challenge for, but win, Lord Stanley’s Silver Mug, a trophy that is currently in the care of the folks from Mayberry.

Vigneault takes over the Canucks after serving a stint as head coach of their AHL farm club the Manitoba Moose, ever since his hiring by the Canucks it had been thought that one day he might the guy tapped to take over from Marc Crawford, though not many expected the changing of the guard to happen so soon.

When Crawford was fired in April, many thought that the announcement of Vigneault’s promotion would only be a few short days away. But as the playoffs carried on and Vancouver fans watched the Oilers travel from eight to one win away from the Stanley Cup, the announcements from Orca Bay became fewer and far between.

Due Diligence was the buzz word, Dave Nonis apparently taking his time to make sure that he found just the right guy for the challenging job ahead. Other candidates apparently came and went, while Vigneault watched and waited from the sidelines, leaving many to wonder just what the Canucks were up to.

It seemed to be a strange way of handling an heir apparent, for surely if he wasn’t given the Canucks job he would not be returning to the farm, the denial of the big job a slap in the face for a candidate that came with such high potential. Fortunately for Vigneault and the Canucks the waiting game is over and they can all get on with planning the 2006-07 season.

Vigneault’s job won’t be an easy task, there was a serious dis-connect in the Canuck squad this year, far too many nights taken off and not enough passion in place to make a serious run for a playoff spot, this from a team that many had tapped as most likely to win the Stanley Cup!

Only two coaches have ever had a winning record with the Canucks, Pat Quinn who got them to a game seven showdown for the Stanley Cup in 1994 and Marc Crawford who had a Stanley Cup ring of his own from his Colorado days. Both ended up on the firing line, a testimony to the uncertainties of NHL coaching.

Vigneault who last ran an NHL bench in the 1999-2000 season with Montreal is described by some as a hard ass and by others as a players coach. A trait that may come in handy in Vancouver which sometimes need both in the same night. It will be interesting to see if the team that Nonis assembles for training camp, will be more disposed to get along with the new coach as opposed to the perception of the relations with the old one.

It will be interesting to see how the always voracious Vancouver media handles their newest subject. Though having spent a few years in the media hurricane that is Montreal, worrying about Tony Gallagher or Neil Macrae will probably be the least of Vigneault’s worries.

Skating, shooting and winning hockey games those should be his concerns next season, keep him away from the papers and the radio and hey it might be a good year to be a coach!

Monday, June 19, 2006

They’re feeling finer in Caroliner, But shouldn’t be down in Oiler town!

Sometimes the best story doesn’t get to be told. For most hockey fans the best outcome for the 2006 Stanley Cup final would have been the Oilers holding the Stanley Cup up high, signifying a remarkable battle against all odds to claim hockey supremacy in the NHL.

It would have been the feel good story of the year a team that had been written off more times than one could care to count, only to come back game after game and defy the odds to advance further to their goal. They had the momentum with them as they entered game seven, two do or die wins in games five and six, a solid thrashing of the Hurricanes on Saturday gave may hope that the Oilers were but sixty minutes away from writing a bit of Stanley Cup history.

In the end though, history itself won out. The Carolina Hurricanes with a 3-1 victory, became the twelfth team to win the Stanley Cup in a game seven showdown on home ice, that 1942 record of the Toronto Maple Leafs still safe for the record books for another year. Going into the game, only two teams names were entered in the NHL history books for having won a game seven on visiting ice, there are still only two teams deep in the pages of the NHL holy books.

Carolina was full value for their game seven victory, they were a completely different team in the first period of game seven than that which left the Rexall Place ice on Saturday. They took the speed and the body to the Oilers, penning them in the Edmonton portion of the ice for the good part of the first period. The Oilers were rocked early on with a Hurricane goal by Adam Ward in the first ninety seconds of play, a goal that seemed to sit the Oil back for a bit as they regrouped and tried to figure a way out of their end and into the Carolina zone.

Carolina just refused to give the Oilers any ice to work with during the first two periods, they clogged the neutral zone, pinched and fore checked effectively in the Oiler zone and cleared the puck with amazing frequency in their own end. On those rare occasions that things went wrong, Cam Ward was there to stop the Oilers as he seemed to be for most of the series, a feat recorded by the awarding of the Conn Smythe trophy to Ward at the end of the game. Frantesik Kaberle put a bit of gloom into the Edmonton outlook with his timely second period goal four minutes into the second. The Canes taking advantage of the two goal bulge to tighten up the offensive zone even further and choke off many Oiler rushes before they could get untracked.

The Oilers battled back in the third, an early goal a bit more than a minute into the period by Fernando Pisani pulled the Oil to within one goal with a shot to the back of the Hurricane net. Pisani who had a remarkable playoff run, continued to be a force through the third with a second chance to tie the game up late in the third, but he could only got a piece of the puck firing a shot that went wide of the wide of the wide open net.

Once again though the undoing of the Oilers on this night was a familiar situation, another 5 on 3 advantage which they couldn’t capitalize on, Hurricane defender Mike Commodore almost willing the puck away from Oilers and keeping them off the score sheet.

The Canes put the game away for good with an empty net goal, with less than 90 seconds to go, as they pinched the puck past Chris Pronger on the Carolina blue line and then Justin Williams crossed the Oiler blue line put it into the empty Oiler net to set off the celebrations at the RBC Centre.

Game seven provided a platform for the veterans on the Carolina squad to step up and settle down their younger team mates, setting the tone for the game with hard hits and fast skating. The pace in both directions was amazing to watch, as they dashed from end to end throwing their bodies into boards, crashing nets and blocking shots. Two teams playing hockey in the middle of June, after a grinding regular season, followed by this winding road of a playoff schedule, and still they had enough gas in their tanks to put on a riveting display of Stanley Cup hockey.

Stanley gets a southern drawl this year, the Cup belongs to Raleigh. They are a team that is deserving of respect from hockey fans for their tenacity through the regular season and through the playoffs. Frequently overlooked as a serious team due to their location, they now can take a claim to hockey’s higher echelons, a solid team that won the games that needed to be won. Consisting of players that stepped up when the time came to make that definitive statement, they earned this Cup the hardest way possible, with doubters watching their every move. They hovered near the top of the East for most of the season and lasted the grueling battles of the playoffs to hoist the storied trophy in front of their home town fans.

But save some of that goodwill for the Oilers as well, a team that finished 8th overall in the West , queaking into the playoffs and a squad that finished 14th overall in the league. They came within a goal of tying the series and going to overtime, surrendering an empty netter to finally end their season. Even those fans that over the years begrudged Edmonton its success, would have to admit this was one gutsy hockey team that should be proud of a hell of a season.

The story is pretty good as it ended, but you know an Oiler victory might have added another colourful chapter not only to Oiler history, but that of Stanley Cup battles from years gone by.

Everything Stanley!

Game Seven, the thing that kids' dreams are made of. From the street hockey games, to the nights on the pond to the early morning practices of a suburban hockey rink, every kid dreams of being the go to guy (or gal), the one that puts the final goal of the season away. The hero of the Stanley Cup playoffs. There are two line ups of potential heroes for tonights climax to the NHL season.

To get you in the mood for game time, some selected readings from the wired universe about tonights, final showdown.

Runaway train to Cup
Weight takes pre-game skate
Agony or Ecstasy
Oilers have edge in leadership
Lots at steak
Cole in their stove
Don't Let Up Battle Cry for game 7
No Cane Do
Hoping to be a part of that rich history
"P" stands for
Reflecting on old memories
Torres contributing a new trait
The fatigue factor
Brind'Amour has company
Cole makes a suprise return
Home Ice
Oilers vow hit parade will continue
Zebras in eye of the Hurricanes
Oilers peak at right time
Cole: Playing is worth the risk
Things you might not know about Game 7
Oilers take it to the limit
Hurricanes out of options
Interesting decisions
Hurricanes won't storm back, win cup
Hurricanes try to avoid giant collapse
Canes' hope Coles return brings some luck
Brind'Amour takes the heat
Final gone to trench warfare
Hurricanes must bring it all
Hurricanes on edge of disaster
History favors Hurricanes in game 7
The ultimate sporting drama
Intrigue surrounds Stanley Cup finale
No Bit parts
And the sooner you come up with them
Seven's what we all dream of
Time to bring the Cup back home

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Carolina rocked like a Hurricane!

The collars are a little tighter, the palms a little sweatier as the Carolina Hurricanes head for home and a game seven date, with the resilient and suddenly very confident
Edmonton Oilers.

Edmonton dominated game six like no other game this series, as they out hit the Hurricanes at every opportunity. They took away pucks, took shots (man did they take shots), blocked shots (man did they block shots) and most importantly they scored goals (man did they score goals).

It was a night when nothing seemed to go wrong for the Oilers and everything seemed to fall apart for the Hurricanes. Pisani, Torres, Pronger, Smyth, Smith and Horcuff, they make up a never ending parade of Oilers that seem to rise up to the challenge and make their team better with each game. Each shift seems to build on the last, each hit feeds off the previous one. A blocked shot, a great save, a crushing hit, a goal in the net; each sets a tone for the rest of the team to follow.

Carolina which looked despondent after losing game five to the Oilers at home in Raleigh, must be positively panic stricken after dropping game six 4-0, a game that they never really appeared to be involved in.

This one looked so one sided it brought back memories of Oiler victories back in the Golden days of Wayne, Mark, Paul, Kevin and Grant. The Oil took charge from the opening face off and never let their foot off of the Hurricanes back, they punished them in both ends of the rink.

The once worrisome power play suddenly alive in the last two games, capitalizing on far too many bad Hurricane penalties, so rattled were the Canes that they found themselves penalized not once but twice for too many men on the ice. It’s something that shouldn’t really happen in an all important playoff game.

The Hurricanes played scared Saturday night, the fear seems omni present from the surprise insertion of the previously injured Erik Cole, to the almost plea like urges from the coach at a time out to do something, anything out there to get back in the game.

The Oilers however, knew when they had a team on the run and didn’t let up one bit as the third period began and crowd’s level of joy increased by the minute.

Chants of we want the Cup, we want the Cup not only echoed around Rexall Place but were heard loud and clear probably all the way to Raleigh.

Game six was the final game to be played at Rexall Place this season, the Oilers left their fans with a gem to remember and a win that should build up more than enough confidence from the home folk to carry them on to Carolina for the deciding game seven show down on Monday.

While Saturday may have been the last game at Rexall this year, there may be one more event there come next week. Then again, should the Oilers bring home the Stanley Cup, Rexall may be just a tad too cozy for all the well wishers that will be ready to celebrate this most unpredictable of come backs.

From trailing the series 3-1, to holding the hammer and the momentum heading into game seven, it’s been an amazing run from these Oilers. Best of all, they may not be finished yet.

If the last two games are any indication as to which way this series is heading, the statistics that say 83% of the previous game sevens have been won by the home squad may not count for much.

These Oilers don’t seem to have any quit in them, tell them their done and they’ll work twice as hard to prove you wrong. Carolina is facing a huge challenge Monday night, they’ve surrendered the advantage on the ice, it will be interesting to see if the advantage of home ice will make any difference to an Oiler team that seems to be on an unstoppable mission.

No NHL team has come back from the near dead to win the Stanley Cup since 1942, Monday night the Oilers may not only win the Stanley Cup, but they very well may put themselves on the history pages as well. It makes for a story that should provide even more incentive to come out hard and take the game to Carolina, a team that all of a sudden looks very fragile and ready to collapse.

The Hurricanes have much to think about on that flight home, the most important thing, how they let a determined team back into the hunt and how they’re going to find a way to put the genie back in the bottle before its too late!

Bulletin Board Motivation

The Carolina Hurricanes don't need this kind of aggravation, not only are the Edmonton Oilers showing much in the signs of life department all of a sudden, but now they have something tangible to put on their bulletin board and say "see, they say it's all over!".

The monthly memorbilia magazine Beckett Monthly, has just sent a press run of 60,000 issues into the world with the front page declaration "Canes win the Cup!", with time apparently running out on the magazine to make a decision, they figured that Carolina was so in control of the series that they surely would be the winners by the time the magazine made it to news stands.

The only problem it seems is that nobody told the Oilers that the presses were running and Carolina had won. No doubt they'll be relishing the opportunity to make life difficult not only for the Canes but for Beckett as well. With the series set for a game six showdown in Edmonton Saturday night, the folks at Becketts are looking the possiblity of becoming a collectors item of their own.

Should the Oilers win Saturday and then take game seven back in Carolina next week, the Canes win the Cup issue will be right up there with Dewey Wins and other famous missed calls of history.

Friday, June 16, 2006

MacLean taken to task

Count Sun and Canoe columnist Morris Della Costa as less than enamored with Ron MacLean's hosting duties on the Stanley Cup playoffs this season.

Della Costa penned a column on Thursday suggesting that Don Cherry's sidekick may wish to get back to the hosting of the program and quit trying to generate his own headlines. The bone that Della Costa has to pick surrounds MacLean's interview with Colin Campbell, in which he attacked the NHL position on officiating this year with it's obsession with cracking down on infractions.

The writer, who probably has guaranteed he won't ever appear on the Satellite Hot Stove league, took the Hockey Night in Canada host to task for his over the top inquisition over the subject of league officials. A topic that it was suggested has been talked to death by MacLean this year and could possibly use a break for the rest of the playoffs.

You can check out the article out for yourself here.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Pisani propels Oilers to game six

They’re still there! Try as Carolina might, the Edmonton Oilers refuse to die off and go away.

In another entertaining game, the Oilers took game five with a 4-3 thrilling OT victory and denied the Hurricane the opportunity to collect the Stanley Cup on home ice, forcing a game six Saturday in Edmonton. In the end, the Cup stayed in it's case, packed up and ready to hit the road for Northern Alberta and game six on Saturday, if the Oilers have it's way it will be back in Carolina for game seven next week!

With their backs to the wall in game five, the Oilers came out determined with a quick goal in the first minute of play setting the tone and pace for the next fifty nine minutes plus OT.

At times it appeared that history would again haunt the Oilers, as they continued to struggle on the power play and gave the Hurricanes too many opportunities with the man advantage to put the game and the series away. All three of the Hurricane goals came on the power play, a curse of the series that haunts the Oilers, as untimely penalties threaten to be their undoing game in and game out.

But with a will to survive they carried on, led once again by Jussi Markkenen who has done everything he can to keep his team mates in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. Markkenen made a number of heart stopping saves to keep the Hurricanes from pulling away, his play erasing most doubts in Oiler land about having a chance to win without Dwayne Roloson.

Once again the Oilers have denied the many “experts” who predicted that their run would come to an end, in fact winning the goal in Over time with a short handed goal was a definitive finger in the eye to the doubters about this Oiler team.

It was only fitting that Fernando Pisani would score the winning goal (his second goal of the game), a break away shot on the penalty kill, shocking the Hurricanes and their fans and delighting Oiler fans setting them up for another wild and passionate affair back at the Rexall Centre.

Wednesday nights pace was at times amazing as the teams traded hits, shots and goals and stride for stride roared down the ice time and again, in the highly entertaining game. The speed of the game left many anxiously awaiting the next installment of “how the Oil flows.”

Mr. Lorieau, warm up your singing voice, you have one more night of work ahead!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Does hockey have a non existent profile in the USA?

While they prepare to do battle for Lord Stanley’s Mug tonight in Raleigh, one simple question remains, outside of Canada is anybody really paying attention to hockey in the second week of June?

If ancillary evidence is to be believed, the viewership for the Stanley Cup finals is not going to be breaking any television ratings for the foreseeable future. On CKNW’s Bill Good Show today (11:30-Noon hour block) Good and author Bruce Dowbiggin discussed the state of the NHL below the 49th parallel and a less than favourable impression was painted by the two.

Is it possibly true that a recent televised rain out of a Baseball game garnered higher ratings than the duel between the Oilers and the Hurricanes? Has hockey been reduced to a cult status in the US as many hockey writers seem to think? Those suggestions were passed along on the show today and if true, then Gary Bettman has a pretty steep hill ahead of him in trying to get the NHL back to prominence in the USA.

Even in Canada, the televised ratings for the playoffs are down 15% from the last time we saw a Stanley Cup match, the Flames-Lightning match up of 2004. Two teams far from the bright lights of the biggest of American cities in the league, much like this years match up a contest of hinterland dwellers, who don’t seem to be attracting much interest from the larger American centres.

Good and Dowbiggin talked about the OLN experiment, which saw the NHL leave it’s place with ESPN to strike out with the lesser profile of OLN, which has resulted in rather meager ratings for most of the season and almost invisible presence as the money days of the Stanley Cup came along. The deal with NBC has been an interesting experiment as well, as it was basically a purchase of television time, which seems t be filled mainly with promo announcements for NFL Sunday night football coming this fall on NBC!

As for Bettman, he's not overly concerned it seems over the state of attention his game is receiving these days, feeling that eventually the American market will come around. He however may wish to make note of the reaction from the fans perspective as recounted in the Sports Central site.

While television dominated the discussion, there were some positive signs most of them above the 49th line though, Canadians have returned to the rinks in large numbers after the lock out year, as most cities sold out their rinks night in and night out. The same could not be said for their American cousins, who frequently played to less than capacity crowds sometimes in some rather important markets such as Chicago and the New York, New Jersey area. Cities such as Anaheim have been discovering an interesting problem as well, they have a core group of fans who come to the games, but that is not translating into television numbers for their franchise which won’t do much for the way of growth in the years to come.

The other good news for the NHL was the strengthening Canadian dollar, which has roared back to life in the last half year or so, making a strong leap towards the US dollar, making costs less and profit potential higher for the Canadian teams. The Canadian teams can look forward to better revenue streams with a stronger dollar, though Gary Bettman can hardly take any credit for the bulking up of the loonie.

In the end the quesiton is should the NHL quit worrying about trying to be a big player in the US and just appeal to those areas that truly love hockey, which would bode well for the Quebec City's, Hamilton and Winnipegs!

It was a fairly interesting discussion, which you can check it out for yourself by going to the CKNW website and clicking on the Audio Vault link, newcomers have to register but it’s relatively simple, from there select the 11 -12 noon hour and listen in from 11:30 on til noon.

One win to push the series back to Edmonton

That is the mantra in the Oiler dressing room as they prepare for game five of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Trailing the Carolina Hurricanes 3 games to 1, the Oilers find themselves in that ever popular must win situation.

In fact that is what they have to do in every game should they wish to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup at Edmonton City Hall. No more second chances, its win game five, then game six and then game seven.

Of course before they need worry about those games six and seven, they need to take care of game five. It’s the chance for Carolina to win the ancient Canadian heirloom on their home ice in Raleigh.

The Hurricanes will want to avoid making a return trip to the Rexall Centre in Edmonton, so Wednesday night should be a fast paced match up as two teams desperate in different ways wage battle.

The Oilers feel that they’ve been the better team on the ice for the bulk of the series, but yet they still trail the Canes 3 games to 1. In the end it’s not who plays or thinks they play the best over the series, it’s who has the four wins that take home the Stanley Cup.

Wednesday night, the Oilers try to extend their playoff lives for a few more nights, history is against them however, it was the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs who once upon a time came back from a 3-0 deficit to claim the Cup.

It’s not often that Albertan’s turn to Toronto for inspiration, but on Wednesday they’ll be studying their hockey almanacs and summoning up the ghosts of Stanowski, Apps, Godlham and Broda for a nod in their favour.

History seldom repeats itself and 64 years is a long time for lightning to strike again, but for the Oilers, they’re hoping for a bit of a storm over Raleigh Wednesday night, one bolt and they’ll be back on their way home for a game six and another shot a writing their own chapter in the NHL history books!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Devils look to Montreal for another coach

If history is any indication, Guy Carbonneau may wish to begin looking for a home in New Jersey now! It obviously is only a matter of time before Lou Lamoriello will be knocking on his door and wooing him like he has Jacques Leamire, Larry Robinson, Pat Burns and now Claude Julien.

Julien was introduced today as the latest head coach for the New Jersey Devils, the third former Montreal Canadiens coach to hold the office in the swamp land state.

Stating that it's just the way it worked out, Lamoriello said he was delighted that Julien was joining the Devil's and that he and Julien's styles are going to mesh quite nicely. For Julien it's a chance to join a team that doesn't have a lot of rebuilding or re-tooling to get back into the thick of things in the NHL East.

Possibly even more rewarding will be the opportunity to play his former team the Habs on a more frequent basis, than if he'd been exiled to the Western Conference.

While he contemplates his new assignment in New Jersey he may want to keep an eye on the coach's lists in Montreal, you never know who your next replacement might be!